Philip Trower Home Page

Back to Contents Page

Chapter Eleven

Jacques Maritain (1882-1973)

Owing little if anything to German philosophy, Maritain's personalism had its roots in St Thomas, the Enlightenment and French humanism, and its goals were as much practical as speculative.

The son of an unbelieving Republican father and a Protestant mother, as a young man he had been attracted to socialism. Then came his conversion to Catholicism (1902) and discovery of St. Thomas. It was as a metaphysician and Thomist that Maritain made his reputation between then and 1927. During that time he adopted the more or less conservative political views of the group of Dominicans with whom he first came into contact, and for a time was associated with L'action Française. But on its condemnation by Rome, he rethought his political position. He reverted to being a social and political liberal and as such he remained. However the temper and tone of his liberalism fluctuated.

During the economic crisis of the 1930s he was further "to the left" (i.e. critical of free enterprise or liberal capitalism) than during the 1940s when he was teaching in America. Closer contact with the United States gave him a greater appreciation of the virtues of American-style democracy. This was followed by a flirtation with the American political radicalism of the American populist agitator Saul Alinsky. In extreme old age after the death of his wife, he retired to the house of a religious order.

He was not invited to take part in Vatican II only to read a message at the concluding ceremonies. Nevertheless the bulk of what he had written about the human person and human society had already been taken into the mainstream of the Church's social teaching, had strongly influenced the development of that teaching by the Council, and was amply used by the three "conciliar popes," John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II. Since the essentials are in what I have written in chapters 6 and 7 about the Church's social teaching, there is no need to go over them again, and I will confine myself to the problems arising from his famous book Integral Humanism (1936), in which he started to give his personalist principles an historical and evolutionary development. 91

That there were problems, he himself became uneasily aware as soon as the Council was over.

"Thanks especially to Emmanuel Mounier," he wrote in Le Paysan de la Garonne (Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1966, pp. 81-82) "the expression 'personalist and communitarian' has become something of a catchphrase for French Catholic thought. I am not without some responsibility for this myself . . . It is from me, I think, that Mounier got it ... but when I see the way it is now being used, I am not very proud of it. For it is clear that, after paying lip-service to the 'personalist,' it is really the 'communitarian' which those who use it cherish." 92

He also complained of the large numbers of clergy and laity for whom "the only thing that matters is the temporal vocation of the human race, with its march, embattled but victorious, to justice, peace and happiness" (The Peasant of the Garonne, p. 56). "Hardly is the word 'world' pronounced when a gleam of ecstasy lights up the face of one and all."

Today it is difficult to read these words without being taken aback, seeing that in not a few people's opinion, Integral Humanism, or elements of it, were responsible for the very situation he was lamenting.

In spite of his great contributions to Catholic social and political thought, Maritain was always less sure-footed in this field than as a metaphysician. His goodness of heart, weak historical sense and seemingly poor understanding of what most ordinary people are like, often led him to identify what he would have liked something to be with what it could be or ought to be. And he was at his least sure-footed when he wrote Integral Humanism. The Spanish Civil War was just about to erupt; Hitler was already in power in Germany; France was embroiled in the struggles between the Popular Front and the political right; and these ephemeral secular conflicts all left their mark on the book. However, the source of the problems, according to the late Cardinal Siri of Genoa, lay deeper.

Cardinal Siri of Genoa called Integral Humanism "a philosophy-theology of human history," and it is here, he says, that we find the key to all Maritain's thought about society, politics and the meaning of history, that key being the radical separation he makes between our earthly and heavenly callings or between secular and salvation history. Both are willed by God. But they move along separate tracks one above the other, towards distinct goals, like trucks on a two-tier Californian super-highway.

The cardinal illustrates his point with two quotations. "The secular order has in the course of the modern age built up for itself an autonomous relation with regard to the spiritual or consecrational order which in fact excludes the notion of instrumentality. In other words, it has come of age. This is ... an historical gain, which a new Christendom must know how to preserve" (I.H., p. 170).

The second quotation is the book's enigmatic last sentence. "Thus human history grows, for it isn't a process of repetition, but of expansion and progress ... drawing near at the same time to its double consummation in the absolute below, where man is god without God, and in the absolute above where he is god in God."

The Church has always distinguished between the natural and supernatural orders, just as the scholastics distinguished between men's natural or supernatural vocations or "ends." But for the scholastic, the two ends were intertwined. No scholastic before Maritain, I think, had ever forced them so far asunder. Furthermore, for the scholastics, man's natural end was something realised in the here and now. They did not think of history as having a natural end.

Maritain's reason for separating the two orders as radically as he did was partly tactical. As already mentioned, he wanted Catholic laymen to be free to collaborate with all "men of good will" in what he called the "common task," with minimal interference from the clergy. To this extent, the idea will be enshrined in the conciliar teaching as "the autonomy of secular realities" (see Turmoil and Truth, Chapter 14). Maritain's "common task" was the socio-political counterpart of the new theologians' "human endeavour," and it meant more than winning decent pay and conditions for the "fourth estate" as he called the working classes. The common task meant "a substantial transmutation where the fourth estate will come ... to ownership, to real freedom, and a real participation in political and economic enterprise" (I.H., p. 268).

At this point we meet an idea which takes us deeper into Maritain's mind. Every man is an individual; but only a man who is his own master is fully a person. A gardener, for instance, working for the personal advantage of another rather than himself or the community, is fully an individual but only partly a person. This is why any kind of social or industrial "paternalism" (i.e. philanthropic employers looking after their employees' welfare, rather than the workers seeing to it for themselves) is reprehensible.

The common. task therefore, has as its second and higher goal the bringing of men to full "personhood" by freeing them from everything that limits their "personal expansion and autonomy" "The natural end of the history of the world is the mastery of nature by man, and the conquest of human autonomy," or setting "the human person and the different human groups (races, classes and nations) free from servitude or subjection to other men" (The Peasant of the Garonne, pp. 40-41). To achieve this end is man's "historic vocation."

It is also the direction in which history as a whole is moving. In spite of serious setbacks, "history" is on the side of the common task. When the task is complete, secular history will have come to its term. This does not mean, Maritain is quick to assure us, that it is bound to reach it; he is not preaching a doctrine of inevitable progress like the 18th century French encyclopedist Condorcet. But if the process is frustrated "the end is premature and the book stops in the middle" (I.H., p. 238). We have the impression that, as far as this world is concerned, God's plan will have failed.

Although the spirit of the Gospels has played its part, the primary agents of this necessarily forward movement of history are the natural appetite for human liberty in the human will and the ideal of liberty in the human mind. The appetite drives men towards their goal from within, after the fashion of Bergson's élan vital, while the ideal, glittering mirage-like in the future, pulls them forward like a magnet. The combined actions, one propulsive, the other attractive, are responsible for the "ascending forces of history"

The ascending forces are all movements, political or otherwise, working towards the goal of total emancipation. Collaboration with Marxists was therefore sometimes possible for tactical reasons. Even if Marxists horribly distorted the movement of history, they were not resisting its general thrust, unlike fascists, who, being opposed to the movement of history, could never be allies. Social and political movements "of the left" incarnated the inner drive of history. In them, Maritain saw coming to birth a "third age" of the world. Although earthly history is "impure and dark;' he tells us, nevertheless it is "the history of an unhappy humanity on the march towards a most mysterious deliverance" (I.H., p. 243).

However the most important questions are left dangling in the air. Is this deliverance natural or supernatural? If natural, it presumably takes place in time. Are we therefore to assume that once men are free and autonomous they will all behave like angels? And what about all the people who have died without becoming free and autonomous? Are they incomplete persons in heaven? We are simply told that "the history of time enigmatically prepares its final consummation in the Kingdom of God" (I.H., p.103) and that once "the ideal towards which the human person aspires" has been realised and history has "achieved its end;' Humanity will have "passed beyond history."

It is not without significance, I think, that in the little book published in New York in 1942, from which I have taken this last quotation, Les droits de l'homme et la loi naturelle (The Rights of Man, London, Geoffrey Bles, 1944, see pp. 20 & 22) he points out the similarities between his thinking on these topics and that of "the great paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin." Indeed Integral Humanism's "evolutionism" could be called the political counterpart of Fr Teilhard's cultural and cosmic evolutionism. Later, when people began to understand better what "the great paleontologist" was actually saying, Maritain was to take a decidedly different view of him.

However, the problems really begin when Maritain tries to explain how the "common task" is to be realised in practice.

Having made the "freedom, expansion and autonomy" of the individual or human person the fundamental principle of socio-political life, the "pluralist" society or state (the one with a wide variety of views about fundamental questions) has to be the ideal. That all Western societies are now pluralist is not just a fact, it is an "historic gain." "We must give up seeking in a common profession of faith the source and principle of unity in the social body" (I.H., p.168).

Maritain had inherited from his socialist past and French republican forebears a deep-rooted aversion to the idea of the "confessional state" (a state where the rulers and laws express the beliefs and principles of one religion because it is the religion of the great majority of the people, and minority "faiths" have to keep a low profile). Necessary perhaps in their time, they should now be relegated to the scrap heap. The Church should have no direct influence on attempts to realise humanity's natural or temporal end.

On the other hand, as a Catholic philosopher, Maritain knows that truth and right are still higher goods, and that for men, being social by nature, there is a common good as well as a good of the individual. How in such a radically pluralist state are these higher goods to get a foot in the door? How are the citizens to be kept together as a people without some kind of agreement on basic questions?

It was to answer these questions that Maritain invented his "integral humanist" state or new non-denominational "Christendom" surely one of the most curious exercises in political philosophy ever undertaken by a  self-proclaimed democrat. 93

His integral humanist state will, he tells us, be politically democratic (it will presumably have universal suffrage and representative institutions of some kind) and Christian in inspiration. However, the real power lies with those he calls the cives praeclari (the enlightened ones). The cives praeclari, who may be of any religion or none, are not state officials elected by the people, or part of the political system. They are self-appointed groups of intellectuals and members of the "proletarian elite" who guide public opinion towards the fulfilment of the common task from out of sight, like members of communist party cells or Masonic lodges. Maritain himself says they will fulfil the same function as kings in the past; elsewhere he compares them to medieval religious orders (I.H., pp. 162 & 165).

The "Christian inspiration" will come from the Catholic cives praeclari, of whom, it is assumed, there will be a few in each group. They will not try to impose their religious beliefs on the other members of the group. But their practical ideas about what needs to be done will in the end be adopted because of the intrinsic reasonableness and rightness of what they propose. Thus, says Maritain, the Christian viewpoint "will have prevailed ... but in a secular and pluralist way" (I.H., p. 168). 94

But why should unbelievers and non-Christians unfailingly accept what is reasonable and right? Isn't this Pelagianism: believing that men can unfailingly see and do what is right by their natural powers alone? No, says Maritain, because the cives praeclari "even when ... ignorant of or alien to the profession of Christianity" are already in a state of grace (1.H., p. 162). Willing, as they do, the right social and political ends, they are "set in a state of moral rectitude"; they are by definition virtuous men and as such must be under the influence of grace (I.H., pp. 162-3). More than that, in embracing Maritain's socio-political ideals, they have unconsciously embraced Christianity itself "Comprehended in the fullness and perfection of the truths which it (the common task) implies, it takes  in all of Christianity; yes, the whole of Christian ethics and dogmatics," even if it does not demand "in its beginning a profession of the whole of Christianity from each man" (I.H., p. 200). Therefore, Maritain argues, "a city animated by such elements will in reality be, to an extent, under the reign of Christ" (I.H., p.163).

The moral stature of the cives praeclari will at the same time make them acceptable to the masses, even if the masses are not capable of appreciating the wisdom of their leaders' policies. Why the masses should be ready to follow good rather than bad leaders is not explained. In fact, Maritain's attitude towards the masses is equivocal. Sometimes he speaks of them as though they were to be passive instruments of the cives praeclari, or even obstacles to their aims (I.H., p. 169). At others the masses themselves seem to be the principal driving-force behind history. We hear of their "historic mission." We are told that the "destiny of humanity depends largely on their attitude and action" (I.H., p. 230). Are the masses too all in a state of  grace? It often seems so. "The guiding star ... of this new humanism, the idea at its heart ... will not be that of God's holy empire (sic) over all things, but rather that of the holy freedom (sic) of the creature whom grace unites to God" (I.H., p. 156). 95

What about the citizens who reject his grace? That, however, is an incidental point. Whether or not the masses are all in a state of grace, the cives praeclari and the masses together will prepare the ground for the new Christendom with "a vast and multiform work ... of propaganda and organisation" (I.H., p. 267). "A spiritual warfare" and "a social and temporal strife" will have "to be waged by all those who share the same human ideal" (I.H., p. 230).

But will working at the common task be enough by itself to hold the citizens of the "new Christendom" together? Here Maritain contradicts himself. First, he tells us that "we must renounce the search for a common profession of faith."  A "simple unity of friendship" and the pursuit of religiously and morally neutral goals will be sufficient (I.H., p. 167). The citizens will be united by a "minimal" kind of unity "on the plane of the temporal." On the next page, however, he tells us that the "simple unity of friendship does  not suffice to give  form to a social body" Nor do common practical aims. Without a "a definitely ethical and religious specification" (I.H., p. 166) the city "cannot be veritably human" (LH., p. 168). So the citizens are to have a common religion, the new Christendom is to be a one-religion state after all, even if Maritain calls it a spiritual ideal and it is centred on man rather than God. Its chief articles of belief are "the dignity of human personality and its spiritual vocation, and of the fraternal love which is its due."

In other words, having carefully excluded the Church from any direct influence over temporal affairs, Maritain has in fact brought religion and politics together again by the back door. The cives praeclarus is a kind of bishop of the religion of human dignity, liberty and brotherliness, guiding both spiritual and temporal affairs.

Disconcerting too in a different way at this period of his life is the manner in which left-wing clichés dominated his political thinking, and revolutionary rhetoric, at times, his writing. All modem states are categorised as communist, fascist, or bourgeois liberal. The only worthwhile people seem to be intellectuals, workers and peasants (I.H., p. 267). Liberal bourgeois states are treated as incapable of reform. Trying to tinker with them is "opportunism" or "empiricism"; they must be "liquidated" (I.H., p. 256). "Modern civilisation is a worn-out vesture" (I.H., p. 201). The future "can only be born of an essential rupture" with the past (I.H., p. 259). 96

Does the state have an obligation to uphold natural morality? Only in so far as the people adhere to it. "The body politic does not know another truth than that which the people know." The state being pluralist, this means that "civil legislation should adapt to the variety of moral creeds of the diverse spiritual lineages which essentially bear on the common good of the social body." (Man and the State, pp. 166-9, cited in "Maritain, Personhood and the State" by Prof. Charles E. Rice, The Wanderer, 9 Sept. 1982.) But suppose the people have conflicting ways of life? Or immoral ones?

There is a curious similarity between the views expressed in Integral Humanism and those of certain French traditionalists. With both there is an underlying assumption that you can get a society made up largely of non-Christians to live like Christians. The difference is about the means. Where the traditionalists think you can do it by recapturing control of the state, Maritain imagined you could do it by stealth.

One regrets having to criticise this great Catholic philosopher, who was in so many ways a good and loveable man. Integral Humanism was not his final word about man and society. But it was his most widely read "word," and the span of its influence stretched from the orthodoxy of Pope Paul to the heterodoxies of Gustavo Gutierrez. It was to be the principal source of today's Catholic political utopianism. 97

In the Peasant of the Garonne he uttered a final cry of anguish at the way some of his ideas had been used, accusing Catholics after the Council of kneeling to the world. But one cannot help feeling that he had given it some fairly profound bows himself.

Emmanuel Mounier (1904-1950)

Emmanuel Mounier, better than any other figure of his time, I think, exemplifies the dilemma of generous-minded young French Catholics who, wanting to "do something" about atrocious social conditions, found themselves trapped between the three political ugly sisters: communism, fascism and anti-religious liberalism. 98

A gifted, initially pious and introverted young Sorbonne graduate from Grenoble, Emmanuel Mourner, first appeared on the French Catholic scene  around 1927 when he began attending the famous weekly gatherings of Catholic intellectuals at Maritain's house in Meudon on the outskirts of Paris, and rapidly made a name for himself as editor of the monthly Esprit, which he founded with the help and support of Maritain and Gabriel Marcel in 1932. For the rest of the thirties, Maritain and Mounier were linked in a curious master-disciple relationship in which the master often seemed to be running to catch up with the disciple.

Mounier had received a narrow philosophical formation and had limited powers of philosophical thought. (Maritain once complained that his articles were "a host of contradictory affirmations.") But he had determination, a strong attachment to certain key ideas, and gifts as a publicist. Added to this, he voiced what many of his generation were confusedly thinking which for Maritain often proved an irresistible attraction. Consequently while Maritain frequently rebuked Mounier for excesses and imprudences, not a few of these excesses found their way into Maritain's own writings of this period, though usually in more guarded language.

Integral Humanism represents the highpoint of Mounier's influence on Maritain. After Maritain's departure for the United States in 1939, it declined. This was largely because of their opposing views about the merits and demerits of democracy and fascism. Maritain never wavered in his opposition to fascism. In spite of Integral Humanism's many amorous sidelong glances towards the extreme left, he always remained strongly attached to the democratic idea (government in some way by as well as for the people.)

Mounier's position was more equivocal. Although he has often been presented as a typical Catholic "of the left," and during the last five years of his life threw his weight behind Christian-Marxist dialogue, he had previously spoken favourably of certain fascist movements (Hitler was the betrayer of true fascism), and with the outbreak of war gave qualified support to Vichy. He believed unashamedly in the role of elites. But he was plucky and in a certain sense unworldly. When the Vichy authorities imprisoned him for nine months he went on hunger strike in protest. In spite of this, he continued to regard them as the legitimate government and greeted the liberation of France by the allies with mixed feelings.

The jump onto the Marxist bandwagon as soon as the Fourth Republic was in place, however, was not the cynical opportunism it seems at first sight. Given Mounier's belief, there was logic in it.

Mourner saw himself as a religious reformer who, on his own admission, knew little about and cared little for politics, yet nevertheless was simple enough to believe that he could use the great political movements of the day to clear the ground for a spiritual revolution which would bring about the universal reign of brotherliness and unselfishness through a reversal or "transvaluation" of reigning "values."

The great barrier to that revolution, in his view, was the selfish individualism of "bourgeois civilisation" with its rotten parliamentary institutions and capitalist economics. Seeing it purely as an instrument of that selfishness, Mounier had nothing but hard words for parliamentary democracy. Democracy meant the French Third Republic. Whatever the faults of fascism and communism (and Mounier was one of the first to denounce Stalin's brutalities and Hitler's persecution of the Jews) they at least recognised that social life should be co-operative or corporate. If therefore one or other of them could be used to sweep away bourgeois civilisation, so much the better. Mounier and his groups of Esprit readers, whom, by the mid-1930s, he had welded into something resembling a movement they met for talks and discussions  could then infiltrate and spiritualise whatever political systems resulted. 99

Today, only Mounier's advocacy of Christian-Marxist dialogue is remembered, partly because his contacts with fascism proved inconvenient to his left-wing admirers, partly because after World War II  Mounier largely rewrote the history of his movement. Like other reformers, he was not averse where necessary to sacrificing historical particularities to the interests of his vision.

But how Catholic was that vision? This is the other area of ambiguity. Underlying his Catholicism was a private "religion of the spirit," which is what he was chiefly interested in propagating and which was to work his spiritual revolution. It had three components.

The first was a variant of Maritain's personalism with elements from Scheler, Marcel and Buber. Most of this, with which we are already familiar, was consistent with Catholicism. The human person is the highest created good, but it only discovers itself in a community inspired by brotherly love. However, Mounter put much less emphasis on the individual's freedom and autonomy than Maritain. Brotherly love and social living came first. Personalism was the instrument destined to regenerate Europe by bringing bourgeois civilisation to  its knees. Through personalism, people would at last learn to prefer people to things and the good of the community to their own private good. These aspects of Mounier's personalism were to leave their mark on the social encyclicals of John XXIII, Paul VI and the Christian humanism of John Paul II 100

The second component was an evolutionary world-view coupled with an emphasis on the primacy of spirit over matter, which he had initially acquired from his philosophy teacher at Grenoble, Jacques Chevalier, a disciple of Bergson. Chevalier also implanted in him a typically Bergstinian aversion to abstract or systematic thought.

In Mounier's thinking, anyone who believed in "spirit"was a potential ally for his religious revolution. He saw Christianity, in Hellmann's words, as first and foremost, "a superior way of life for all people even if they did not share its supernatural beliefs." No specific doctrines were denied, but, in order of importance, belief in "spirit" and brotherly love tended to come before belief in the Creator God or the Blessed Trinity, and "the central acts of Christian drama" sin, redemption, and resurrection  which were to be "set aside" (Hellman, p. 255).

Later, Mounier came under the influence of Teilhard de Chardin. The December 1937 issue of Esprit "heralded Teilhard's work as of ... exceptional importance:" The editor found "reassuring' Teilhard's idea that conflicting political movements, democratic, fascist and communist will ultimately "converge," being all part of a single evolutionary forward march (Hellman, p.128).

Finally there was Nietzsche, whom Mounier discovered during the Second World War. Nietzsche was a more potent influence on him than Marx ever was. Indeed at one point he confessed to knowing little about Marx, though hoped to read more of him. In Nietzsche, Mounier found support for certain already existing sympathies and antipathies which came more from his temperament than his intelligence. By nature rather timid and indecisive and despising himself for being so, he was attracted by compensating qualities and people, such as daring, energy, force, strength of will, action, manly vigour, heroic figures, even violence. Believing, as he did, in elites as the only really effective agents of historical change, he had a corresponding contempt for what he judged weakness, mediocrity, self-seeking and compromise.

Reading Nietzsche not only brought these sympathies and antipathies to white heat, they provided him with a formidable arsenal of invective for attacking bourgeois civilisation (Nietzsche's bête noire too), and for everything he disliked in the Catholic Church.

Mounier's hostility to the greater part of existing Catholic life and practice did not begin with his discovery of Nietzsche, and that there were things to criticise has already been made plain. What is not so easy to explain is why his hostility should have been so all-embracing and uncompromising from early on. He does not seem to have had harsh parents or an unhappy childhood. Perhaps we can attribute it initially to his having listened to conversations between Jacques Chevalier and his disgruntled modernist friends. However, reading Nietzsche made his animosity near paranoic. He ended by becoming incapable of seeing almost anything good in Catholicism past and present. Why hadn't the Church managed to abolish poverty, persuade people to value things of the spirit above material goods, and make all men love each other? By the late 1940s he was wondering whether Christianity had not been a blight rather than a blessing for the human race. Perhaps there never had been any genuine Christianity. Perhaps it was only now beginning. "Who are the first Christians?" he asked, and answered "Perhaps ourselves," meaning himself and his Esprit readers (Hellman, p.199).

Such was the explosive mixture of things acceptable and unacceptable which this (oratorically) ferocious prophet and apostle of brotherly love spread abroad through Esprit immediately before and after World War II Esprit did not have a vast circulation. But Maritain's support and the distinguished writers he and Marcel persuaded to contribute to it, gave it prestige. The early readership included many names eventually to become famous: the future cardinals Journet, de Lubac, Congar and Daniélou, Fr Marie-Dominique Chenu, non-Catholic Christians like Berdyaev, and unbelievers like the philosopher Merleau-Ponty. Outside France its main impact was in Quebec, Belgium and Poland. 101


91.  The book was initially a series of six lectures given at the University of Santander in Spain in the summer of 1934.

92.  Eng. trans. The Peasant of the Garonne, London, Geoffrey Chapman, 1968, p. 51. move along separate tracks one above the other, towards distinct goals, like trucks on a two-tier Californian super-highway.

93.  Maritain was a natural intellectual aristocrat and couldn't help knowing it, just as he knew that democracy in the literal sense is a fiction and that there are limits to the liberties which even the most perfect "pluralist" state can allow. His reluctance to face these realities  dictated by his longing for a world free of injustices  largely, I think, explain the contortions and contradictions which characterise his book.

94.  It is curious that at the very time Maritain was introducing his Spanish audience to these ideas, an unknown Spanish priest was training young laymen in a task that had at least resemblances to that of Maritain's cives praeclari. However, the founder of Opus Dei's aims were much less ambitious and more unequivocally Catholic.

95. Maritairt's exaltation of the individual's holy freedom provoked a famous controversy between a group of his followers and the French Canadian Thomist Charles de Koninck, who maintained that it would render social life all but impossible. See De la primauté du bien commun contre les personalistes, Québec, 1943. Maritain replied in 1947 with  La personne et le bien commun.

96. The rupture and "the inauguration of a new Christian order," Maritain says. "demand 'means' which are proportionate to that end:' Did that include the use of force? Up to a point. The question is discussed on pp. 240-250. By instinct and conviction Maritain was, of course, for peaceful means, which he sets out at length. But he was in a dilemma.The left was attacking him for having, in an earlier book, preached political "disengagement." He replied by citing the Church's teaching about the conditions for a just war and just insurrection. "I hold that the Christian should not refuse such a use of just force, when it is absolutely necessary" (LH., p. 246). But he was also provoked into statements like: "Force and the use of force implies also violence and terror and the use of all the means of destruction. These things also can be just in certain defined conditions" (I.H., p. 241): and "fear of soiling ourselves in entering into the context of history is a pharisaical one... to stain our fingers is not to stain our hearts:' (I.H.. p. 243) Statements of this kind will later be grist for the mill of South American liberation theologians, who will see themselves as partly indebted to Integral Humanism for some of their key concepts.

97. For Gutierrez on Integral Humanism, see Siri, op. cit.. p. 96.

98. For this sketch of Mousier and his personalism, I have relied on John Hellman's fair-minded and detailed study, Emmanuel Moonier and the New Catholic Left 1930-50, University of Toronto Press, 1981. Also available in English are Mounier's own Personalism (London, 1952) and Be not Afraid: Studies in Personalist Sodology (NewYork, 1954).

99. Initially, Maritain seems to have seen Mounier's Esprit groups as a foreshadowing of his cives praeclari. "Even now;" he was writing in 1936,"under the most unpromising conditions, and with the awkwardness of first attempts, the first steps have been taken" (I.H., p. 266).Towards the end of his life, Mourner founded a small community dedicated to living a common life according to personalist principles.

100. The New Catholic Encyclopedia sums up this aspect of Mounier's personalism as: "belief in the person as a spiritual being, maintaining his existence by adhering to a hierarchy of values freely adopted and assimilated...The person freely involves himself in the world while maintaining a spiritual detachment from, and transcendence over, the material aspects of civilisation. Personalism (so qualified) means 'engagement in action' in contemporary civilisation" (art. "Mounier, Emmanuel").

101. Hellman notes Mounier's influence on die Znak group in Poland, on the avant-garde review Cross Currents in the U.S., and the Canadian magazine Cité Libre, one of whose founders was the future Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau. Znak published articles by the future John Paul II. The other two periodicals were designed as American and Canadian versions of Esprit (Emmanuel Mounin and the New Catholic Left, p. 328). According to Fr Chenu. Esprit was learned and rather difficult to read, nevertheless he considered its influence decisive. Its positions, he says, were "vulgarised" in reviews like Sept and Temps Présent and "a host of books" (Hellman, p. 292). Seeing that the critics of "bourgeois Catholicism" tended to associate it with an attachment to the Church's devotional life and practices, these "vulgarisations" must have contributed considerably to the violent post-conciliar assault on those practices.

Copyright © Philip Trower 2006, 2011, 2018

Version: 2nd February 2021


Home Page

Book Contents

Reflections on Scripture